Market Theatre mourns passing of Hugh Masekela


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Artsvark Presser

The Market Theatre Foundation is saddened to learn of the passing of the jazz legend Hugh Masekela this morning. His final performance at the Market Theatre was in the 2010 production Songs of Migration written and directed by the Market Theatre’s Artistic Director, James Ngcobo.

Hugh Masekela starring in Song of Migration. Photographer: Ruphin Coudyzer.
Hugh Masekela starring in Song of Migration. Photographer: Ruphin Coudyzer.

“Bra Hugh was many things to a whole lot of people who interacted with him, he was a mentor who loved nothing but sharing his passion of storytelling and heritage. The whole company that was involved in the creation of Songs of Migration would echo these words and say that around him they had clarity, guidance and a deep sense of memory,” says James Ngcobo.

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Songs of Migration was a musical tribute to the great songs of migrants across the African continent. It included rich musical scenes on the train that was a separator of lovers, breaking up families as it moved raw materials to and from the ports for imports and exports. The production also featured the multi-talented, soulful and dynamic diva, Sibongile Khumalo. In a second season of the production staged in 2011, the production also featured Gloria Bosman.

The world was first introduced to Hugh Masekela at the age of 14 when the respected advocate for equal rights, Father Trevor Huddleston, provided Masekela with a trumpet and, soon after, the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed. Masekela began to hone his Afro-Jazz sound in the late 1950s during a period of intense creative collaboration, most notably performing in the 1959 musical King Kong, written by Todd Matshikiza, and, soon thereafter, as a member of the now legendary South African group, the Jazz Epistles (featuring the classic line-up of Kippie Moeketsi, Abdullah Ibrahim and Jonas Gwangwa).

Masekela’s subsequent solo career has spanned 5 decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba.

Reflecting on Hugh Masekela’s work at the Market Theatre and his relationship with him, artistic director James Ngcobo says: “Projects like The Colored Museum were made richer by his immense contribution in the songs that he composed for the production. We formed a company called Sibojama, he was such a joy to work with and every day we spent with Bra Hugh working on new projects were filled with such excitement and gave one an opportunity to learn from the master. We will always treasure the fact that one had time to go on a journey with such a generous soul.”

The Market Theatre Foundation expresses condolences to Hugh Masekela’s family, friends and fans. Farewell Bra Hugh, the son of the soil, your music will live in our hearts forever.

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